Last weekend’s rescue of a 69-year-old man from Mweelrea Mountain has been described as ‘nothing short of a miracle.’
The rescue, hampered by bad weather, poor visibility and difficult terrain, took almost 24 hours. The man had sustained leg, head and arm injuries after falling almost 100 metres from Connacht’s highest mountain on Saturday afternoon.
The alarm was raised at around 3pm on Saturday afternoon, when the male and his two climbing partners were returning from the summit of Mweelrea Mountain to Delphi Adventure Centre after a day’s climbing. At the time, conditions underfoot were extremely wet and slippery.
The man’s rescue was also delayed by the absence of mobile-phone coverage. However, once his location was determined, a rescue team was dispatched to make contact with the casualty, to assess and stabilise him and to prepare him for evacuation off the mountain.
The Coastguard helicopter was deployed to evacuate the man, but twice rescue attempts were foiled by poor weather and fading light.
Overnight rescue camp
“The decision was taken that three Mountain Rescue personnel would remain on the hill with the casualty overnight, and so too would his two climbing companions,” explained Shane McGuire, PRO of Mayo Mountain Rescue. “Additional materials and clothing were brought to the casualty by Mayo Mountain Rescue team members to ensure that the six people who were staying overnight on the hill would be warm and comfortable.”
At first light on Sunday morning, preparations were taken to stretcher the casualty from the mountain. However, conditions improved and the Coast Guard helicopter from Shannon was able to lift the casualty off the hill. His two companions were walked off Mweelrea by Mayo Mountain Rescue Team members.
In all, over 22 Mountain Rescue personnel were involved in this operation which lasted almost 24 hours.
The casualty was transferred to University Hospital Galway and Mary Walsh, Team Leader of Mayo Mountain Rescue said his survival after the fall was ‘nothing short of a miracle’. She paid tribute to her fellow team members as well as the Delphi Adventure Centre for providing food and accommodation for her team.
Ms Walsh reminded everyone of the importance of being well prepared for walking in the hills and the importance of making a copy of a route map and leaving it in a place where it can be accessed by rescue personnel if needed.
The more care that is taken in advance of a climb the easier it is if a search party is needed later.
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